Fall into a trap with 'First Ladies'

March 24, 2011

It's not often I feel called up to recommend a play that made me gag.  But though "First Ladies" at Trap Door Theatre had that literal effect on me, allow me to join the chorus of critical praise for the play and the production.

Trap Door specializes in work in the contemporary European tradition, which often means work that's simultaneously utterly absurd and extremely dark, and First Ladies is no exception.  The work of the late German playwright Werner Schwab (translated by Michael Mitchell), the play examines three different yet equally ludicrous takes on being alive, represented by three women who spend an evening in a down-at-heels living room describing the lives they have while fantasizing about the lives they want. 

These three--expertly played by Dado, Nichole Wiesner and Trap Door Artistic Director Beata Pilch--could be the three witches from Macbeth, the Three Graces or the Holy Trinity itself as they translate ordinary reality into something terrifying and meaningless--even more terrifying and meaningless than any modern audience knows it to be.  Their conversation, especially that of Wiesner as Marie the bizarrely enthusiastic plumber, is scatological beyond your wildest imaginings: sickeningly and yet not gratuitously so.  By the end, when senseless chatter has given way to even more senseless violence, the means have been thoroughly justified.

The entire company, under the skillful direction of Zeljko Djukic (artistic director of TUTA, likewise a haven for the fever-dreams of modern and contemporary Europe), is excellent; but Nicole Wiesner must be singled out as first among equals.  Her Marie manages to be touching and disgusting at the same time, and her transformations from holy to holy terror and back again are flawless.

Go see this play.  On an empty stomach.